robert fico.jpg
Photograph: EPA/FILIP SINGER

Slovakia took over the European Union's rotating presidency for the first time on Friday, with the bloc thrown into disarray over Britain's decision to leave the EU and migration challenges looming large.

Every six months, a different member state takes over at the helm of the 28-member bloc, organizing high-level meetings and brokering between EU capitals to reach consensus on touchy issues and push forward the bloc's agenda.

One of the focal points of the Slovakian presidency will be an informal summit of EU leaders - minus Britain - in Bratislava on September 16, to discuss the bloc's future as 27. By then, a successor to British Prime Minister David Cameron should be in place to lead exit talks.

"It is high time for us politicians to acknowledge that we have failed ... in communicating the advantages the European project brings to the citizens," Slovakian Prime Minister Robert Fico said Thursday, with a view to the September summit.

Migration is also a thorny issue that has tested the EU's unity, after more than 1 million people reached Europe last year, with many fleeing war and conflict.

One of the most controversial decisions has been to relocate asylum seekers within the EU, to spread the burden, a step that Slovakia opposes.

"We are against a distribution of refugees according to national quotas," said State Secretary of the Interior Ministry Denisa Sakova, adding that Slovakia would propose a "different approach."

Slovakia has set itself four priorities for its EU presidency, Fico said: an economically strong Europe; maximizing the benefits of the bloc's common market; finding a "balance" in EU migration and asylum policy; and the bloc's role as a global player.

Latest news

Chandrasekaran takes over as new chief of India's Tata group

Natarajan Chandrasekaran took over as the chairman of Tata Sons - the holding company that controls India's largest conglomerate, the Tata group - on Tuesday, following a lengthy management feud surrounding the sacking of the former chief.

Greenpeace: Radiation still high in Japan village near nuclear plant

Environmental group Greenpeace Japan warned Tuesday that high radiation levels are still present in a Japanese village that the government is planning to announce is safe for its 6,000 residents to return to, six years after the country's worst atomic disaster.

Energy consumption in EU below its 1990 level but dependency on fossil fuel imports on the rise

In the period from 1990 to 2015 energy consumption in the EU decreased but there was an increase in dependency on fossil fuels, which continued to represent by far the main source of energy, even though all member-countries reduced their share in energy consumption, shows the latest Eurostat report.

Pfizer drug company decides to close plant in Australia, shift production to Croatia

The US pharmaceutical company Pfizer will close the Australian plant which produces the API for HSP-130, a candidate version of Amgen’s Neulasta, and shift production to Croatia, Pfizer told Hina.

Serbian President pulls out of presidential race

Serbian President Tomislav Nikolic on Monday decided not to rerun for the presidency and he and his former party colleague Aleksandar Vucic, who is the incumbent Prime Minister, patched up their conflict, according to local media.

Saucha leaves SDP

Social Democratic Party (SDP) lawmaker Tomislav Saucha, suspected of defrauding the state budget of more than EUR 73,000 by approving fictitious travel orders while serving as former Prime Minister Zoran Milanovic's chief-of-staff , on Monday officially cancelled his party membership, the SDP reported.

Flooding hits Indonesian capital Jakarta, hundreds displaced

Widespread flooding hit the Indonesian capital of Jakarta on Tuesday after heavy overnight rain fell across the city, emergency services have confirmed.

Milo Yiannopoulous' book deal cancelled over child abuse comments

US publisher Simon & Schuster cancelled Milo Yiannopolous' book deal on Monday after a video emerged of the far-right blogger defending sex with children.

Five killed as plane crashes into shops near airport in Melbourne

All five people aboard a small charter plane were killed Tuesday when it crashed into a shopping centre near Essendon Airport in the Australian city of Melbourne, officials said.

Air France pilots give green light to lower cost subsidiary

Members of Air France's main pilots union on Monday voted to accept the creation of a new lower cost subsidiary that the flag carrier hopes will help it compete on long-haul routes.

US Army General McMaster tapped as Trump's national security advisor

Army Lieutenant General HR McMaster will be the new White House national security advisor, US President Donald Trump told reporters Monday.

Greece's creditors want sweeping reforms before next bailout payment

Greece must make sweeping reforms to its labour market, pension system and collective bargaining agreements in order to receive its next vital bailout payment, the country's European creditors said Monday.